Time Limits at Restaurants!

You call for a reservation and you are told there will be a time limit set on your table. Could be an hour and a half, 2 hours or 3. It’s becoming more of a thing at some restaurants. What do you think about this practice?

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I’ll be interested in the replies.

I don’t know that I’d impose one if I owned a restaurant, but I don’t mind it. We rarely spend more than 90 minutes at a restaurant. When we do, we’re probably sitting at the bar (something we do anyway) and will continue ordering drinks, etc. We also are aware whether a restaurant is crowded and try not to be the people who linger and hold up other parties.
Example: it annoys me at DTF when we’re standing in the bar line, and we see people who have paid their checks and just sit and talk for 30 minutes; something that they could easily do elsewhere. Restaurants who offer more of an experience (multiple courses, etc.) are probably not going to impose a time limit. If people want to linger, then at least they know going in that it may not be an option at a particular place, and they can dine somewhere else. Just my $0.02.


I’ve seen time limits at AYCE places, and I completely understand a place wanting to limit the after dinner lingering if all the party is doing is sipping low margain coffee and keeping the table from another full-meal party.

But I would guess that if you keep ordering cocktails and desserts, your time limit won’t be quite so strictly enforced.


Yeah, I think it depends on the type of restaurants, the price I’m paying, and how the food is being served. Also, if they’re letting you know up front when you call, that seems the appropriate time to do such a notification (would rather know then, rather than upon arrival!).


Sometimes they’re also giving you a time limit because that’s the only way they can offer you a reservation. If they open at 5 and have a reservation at 6:45 on that table they need to know you’ll be up in that time frame.

I’ve never had a bad situation as a guest so I can’t comment on that but restaurants want more control of their books, much like how you can’t watch a movie and then hang out through the beginning of the next

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I think the limit thing is just for show?

We were at Izakaya Hachi in Torrance on Friday night. They noted a 2 hour limit when my friend made the reservation.

We arrived at 6PM for our 6:30 reservation and were just seated since the table was available. According to the time stamps on my photos that night, we left after 8:30PM. There was no warning or reminder of the 2 hour limit to my knowledge.

However, we did order the pre-fixe menu with add-ons and plenty of drinks. Not sure if that had any impact.

It also wasn’t too busy a night. There wasn’t a line of folks outside waiting for tables like we’ve seen in the past.


I have no problem with this at all. As others have noted, it enables me to get a 5:30 reservation on a busy night for a table that’s booked again at 7pm. And my experience is that most restaurants don’t strictly enforce it if you’re still finishing dessert or drinks.


I am all for it and the context matters.

This is what annoyed me the most in NYC. Hipsters in a mom n pop hole in the wall in Chinatown lingering after the meal sipping tea and chit chatting. Hello there is a bunch of people around you trying to get seated and eat. The restaurant is trying to make $. Luckily the owners start wiping down the table for them to get the fuking picture. These type of places need you to eat and gtfo. Completely oblivious to this.


This is getting really annoying in some restaurants in SF - you start to see restaurants which have 1:45 hours limit for parties of four. The worst one yet is one restaurant with a time limit of 1:15 hours. And in our experience it will be enforced by trying to get dishes out much faster than normal or not allowing to order appetizers and entrees separately etc. We have started to avoid some this restaurants and we hope other people will do the same

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At food courts, my mom would just stand really close to tables where the people were lingering, if there were no other open tables. It worked. :wink:


When I see this on websites here in Seattle it seems it’s the super popular/trendy/whatever places. Is it like that in SF?

Out bys were also always a thing behind the scenes, more restaurants are just being up front about it with guests.

Like before shift the host would talk about which tables had tight turns, or if this table gets up first then we’ll move this party here and that frees up the table for these other people.

For most tables things wind up working out but you still gotta plan for the people who order a few bottles of wine or a lot of food and respect their time as well.

I usually ask if there’s a requested out by and have gone over with no pressure from anyone

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Totally agree. And context is everything. I’ve been to many places where this, like menu prices, is clearly stated in advance. Don’t go if you want more time. I’ve never… I repeat, never… been in a place that has a time statement where I was asked to move on when it’s clear that no one needs the table. Moreover, even though not necessary, I’ve been to places who need the table, gave my party a little extra time, then came over and offered comp’ed drinks if we’d move to the bar. The rare restaurant that might be on a power trip for no reason will never see me again. The others will.


From a recent Tom Sietsema review:

My path from night out to nightmare began with a wedding spilling out from Vera’s ground-floor lounge onto the sidewalk outside on a recent Saturday. So many beautiful, happy people! My posse couldn’t help but be seduced by the vibe, even after we checked in at the host stand, where we were informed the table was ours for 90 minutes.

… …

Fast-forward about 90 minutes from the time we check in. A young woman appears at our table to let us know we need to move along. I look at my dining companion’s unfinished chicken and the half-finished wine on the table and ask to see a manager. “He’s right behind you,” the host says, in a manner that suggests she’s relieved not to have to debate Vera’s 90-minute policy for three customers. (Four or more are allotted two hours.) I motion to the unfinished business on the table and point out the neighboring trio of diners who have also been asked to relinquish their spot in the middle of the dining room. Six people are leaving this restaurant with a bad impression — despite the good drinks, food and service. The manager offers to relocate us to the lounge, but we are so taken aback by the record scratch, we pay our bill and leave.

Yes, Vera spelled out its time limit before we were seated, but this is the first time I’ve actually been asked to vacate — and not because I was camping out, the industry term for diners who linger long after the table has been cleared and the meal has been paid for. There’s the rub. The pace of our meal was dictated in large part by the kitchen and the speed with which the food arrived. I walked into Vera with an open mind and an appetite. I left resembling the Hulk, angry not so much for myself but on behalf of past and future patrons.

All I could think of as we left the restaurant, besides the obvious boot, was how unfair it was to the chef. Trust me, I’d much rather sing his praises than rant about Vera’s rigidity.


I really dont know what to think . Maybe im on a date or haven’t seen friends in a long time .
Starting out with wine and appetizers. Then moving on to first corse maybe pasta , risotto, or soup , Then could be meat or fish after that . Maybe a salad after that . Possibly a cheese plate after . Could be more wine or a dessert. Time limit . ??? I see in lis Angeles. On top of your 18 percent hair dresser charge . You now have a parking meter at your table . Thats some funny shit . Not a destination

I live in Japan. In the past 5 years or so, time limits at izakayas have become the norm. While they do tell you when you make the reservation or when you are seated if you are a walk-in, I think these places should waive the time limit if the place isn’t crowded or if they don’t have any upcoming reservations. And some restaurants will literally kick you out even if a dish or drink you ordered had recently been served.

If I go to a place that lets you continue to sit at the table after the time limit has come and gone, they go on my list of places to patronize again…and the other ones don’t. At least some places will tell you “30 minutes until your time limit” and while I don’t like being kicked out, I will adhere to that and leave.


They’ve enforced the time limit on us before I think they stack reservations pretty tightly there in busy nights.

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No - it’s new and well established places